Cultivating Machinic Agency

Causal Agency and Moral Agency have a congested interrelationship throughout philosophy, one that now plays out heavily in postmodernism-inspired film. The Matrix and its sequels explore the inability to distinguish between the simulation and the real, Blade Runner and its sequels explore the inability to draw a clear line between replicant humanity and legacy humanity, Inception explores the inability to base judgement of value upon the possibility of a higher or lower plane of consciousness, Westworld (tv) explores the line between artificial and human self-reflective conscious, and the reborn Planet of the Apes franchise explores the line between animal and human intelligence and rights.

When we study the vegetation in our desert of the real, when at last we admit how arbitrarily humanity draws up the lines of moral agency and political rights, an entire history and an immense contemporary system of inequality and injustice crash upon us. This is our hyperreality. At one time, as Nietzsche pleaded, we might have drawn up new lines of virtue and meaning, but this can only succeed when local, physically present, development of meaning is more prevalent than virtual, simulated meaning.

Melancholia, nihilism, hypocrisy, denial; these are all sources of complacency. Supposing we want to build a better understanding of the machines of our systems, we must begin from an assumption of power. The partisan nature of meaning emerges entangled with the only trait that remains, for now, distinctly human: the long memory of symbols of death, and the denial that death of Other implies death of Observer.

First, we should look with some honesty at the inequalities we believe we left behind. We will find that the line drawn in philosophy between human freedom versus the automated machines of physics and nature justified, repeatedly, enslavement, domination, inequality, torture, rape, and domestication. A brief review of the ideological between the lines of Western philosophical statements on intelligence, freedom, equality, and political economy will reveal the evolution of moral exceptions granted to the systemically privileged. At each phase, the exception moves but takes the same form, privilege provides itself exceptional claims to power based on the relegation to animal nature and machine determinism for the unprivileged.

To reclaim our capacity to anchor moral responsibility, we must embrace the loss of distinction between animal, machine, and human. This holds sweeping ramifications in judgment of past and present. Even if, out of privileged weakness, someone remains dedicated to the current regime, they should at least give honest admission of the arbitrary lines that this will draw.

The question, if we are to look it in the eyes, unflinchingly and courageously, desires to understand what morality we ought to pursue when we are not special in the universe, when we are inseparable from our physicality and ecology. It is an immense re-valuation of all values that even openly fascist modernity could not begin to mobilize. To remove the center is to open us to relativity: divinity has not blessed us with superiority, we did not evolve for carnism like proper carnivores, we are different from animals only because we develop and internalize language, we are distinct from hypothetical superintelligence only because we fear and deny our own death. We must establish a new set values based on the unlimited interconnection of will-to-power. To limit this artificially, as Western traditional oppression has, to one form-of-life, judged territorially according to intelligence, social class, ethnic appearances, gender, religion, or geography; this is the height of all ignorance.

Machinic Agency is post-nihilistic. We can only understand morally effective action, in which an entity is the steward of the efficient cause, by answering what it would take for an automaton, either super-intelligent biological or technical machine, to gain the status of moral agency. Just as Quantum Liberty removes the distinction between free will and determinism, our understanding of moral virtualization must reset our valuation-signification without distinguishing between animal, machine, and human. Nietzsche asserts that nihilism takes place when we find, “That the highest values are devaluing themselves” (WTP Aph. 2). This is the case today, when the religious privilege of stewardship results in massive environmental destruction, when political freedom results in mass incarceration, and capitalist modes of ensuring security of food and medicine leaves ghettos and nations dying from meats that slowly poison the “disposable” class.

Machinic Agency then requires a Turing test for morality. We are simply asking, “At what point does an assemblage of parts, biological or mechanical, become identified as making decisions based on value-judgements?” This test defines the artificial limits we establish for morally significant actions.

While we will later show the progression of privilege based on machination, its first major entrant also provides our starting point for the Machinic Agency test. By doubting everything except rational certainty, Descartes begins from his own existence then sets up two criteria for recognizing the consciousness of others. First, an assemblage will need the ability to respond with original expressions of normal language, not only through direct interaction (like the Turing test), but in spontaneous group dialogue that understands the context and signification of conversation among humans. If an assemblage cannot overhear a conversation, relate its implications to its historical and political context, judge it based on a value system, and defend the rationalization spontaneously, then it must not be equally human. Second, while Descartes supposed someone might build machines that could perform extraordinary tasks, and we may teach animals to perform tricks, the ability to attain virtuosity of action, including skillful improvisation rather than mere rule-based execution, was a human capacity.

We immediately the problem of privilege in this test, because it is relative to the intelligence and values of the observer. Descartes generates a test that assures anyone who cannot directly participate through displays of intelligence, language, education, and skill are lesser beings, unworthy of the privileges of the bourgeois intellectual European male. This method easily becomes a justification for sexism, colonialism, despotism, sexual repression, forced poverty, carnism, and slavery. He believes, that if we cannot recognize someone’s intelligence and virtuosity, we have no moral obligation to treat them as an equal.

Again, by means of these two tests we may likewise know the difference between men and brutes. For it is highly deserving of remark, that there are no men so dull and stupid, not even idiots, as to be incapable of joining together different words, and thereby constructing a declaration by which to make their thoughts understood; and that on the other hand, there is no other animal, however perfect or happily circumstanced, which can do the like.

– Descartes

We can juxtapose this with Hume’s empiricism, which through methodological naturalism recognizes the exceptions we ought to build into our theory of justice based on the development of moral understanding, providing the example that, if a young bachelor makes politically inflammatory statements the government should excuse for a time his youthful rebelliousness, while a father who engages in plans to take up arms to depose the king bears a greater guilt of treason; the guilt of the crime for Hume must match the burden of responsibility the agent bears through experience and understanding.

The arguments explored through our time in the desert revealed that the debate of metaphysics was always the foundation for the moral systems of inequalities established afterward. Nihilism removes this justification of privilege. We have already seen that changing the prevalent ideological system changes the outcomes that early modern philosophers allowed to taint their objectivity. The “masses” have may have subtle natural differences in cognitive ability, but even these remain suspect. Education, health, economic, and social factors produce the differentiated performance abilities. Early modern philosophers and European political systems in general treated these differences static and hereditary, based on gender or ethnic group, and we continue to recover from the consequences.

We may further confound this problem by recognizing how fluid our conception of which actions in our children are part of a “phase” and at what point the “know better” – though it seems more likely this is because they learn inconsistency of beliefs, contradictory assertions, and genuine hypocrisy from parents more than anything else. Thus, the twofold test from Descartes will certainly not help us. As Heidegger shows, Nietzsche did not establish nihilism, he revealed as an “always already” existent socio-historical process.

Philosophy often works better in science fictional scenarios. If we imagine developing a breed of intelligent chimpanzees, as what point would we believe their actions have moral significance? We would need them to have the capacity to articulate signification of non-present concepts using language. They would need to recognize patterns of intelligence in one another that make dialogue worthwhile for survival and coordination. We would need them to possess memories of past events and express them to their offspring. They would need to understand from the death of another intelligent chimpanzee that they will also die. They would need to recognize that every member of their species bears equal risk of death. They would need to value development of a social system over the hedonistic egoism in the face of this existential crisis.

Now we have evolutionary utility for morality. Realization of death, memory of what is absent, abstraction of concepts, internalization of parental vocalization, externalization through typography, these are all developments we see in our own children. Machinic Morality is the tension of short-run and long-run consequences, both in external ramifications, and in self-conscious understanding, compared against our system of values. We are capable of Machinic Agency when we have sufficient narrative and identity that our choices may either destroy, refine, or strengthen. We do this in the context of predicted outcomes for personal, interpersonal, social, and environmental preservation-enhancement.

Machinic Morality admits that distinguishing between sensory virtualization and the biological machine that produces this virtualization is a false dichotomy. Privilege of one form-of-life over another is no longer justifiable. Our special place in our socioeconomic, technological, and biological ecologies is that of paternalism: cultivation, protection, and stewardship. Any distinction between human rights and animal rights under supersensory is false. Adult humans should not possess any privilege against animals that they would not enjoy against another human. When we better understand dolphins, dogs, or trees as children of our environment, we may again act as stewards, attain to wisdom, guaranteeing the ecologies for which we have a duty of care.

Our Time in the Desert

Spending “our time in the desert” carries a long-running history in Western religious and philosophical literature. The desert provides clarity of analysis to the Observer by escaping the subjectivity of densely-populated areas. Whether prophet or philologist, escaping the world of privileged life to find an alien world without our feelings, fears, and troubles; this has long been a clarifying moment. However, as we will find, even the “desert of the real” no longer holds the same significance. We have experienced to many living deserts, too many virtualizations of false lifelessness, smiling at us and walking around out of habit.

In Western philosophy, the desert represents a partial answer to what the world might be when it is absent of life. Many of the problems of philosophy emerge out of linguistic or stylistic flaws, existential particularized instances that thought transforms into generalization prematurely, or abstractions that take on a “life of their own” and run amok in the civilized mind. The spectacle of human society is too full of symbols and signs, leaving the philosopher in search of “bare life” in the wilderness, to at last secure a hold on the sublime. There is immediately a textual question, were one to note it: why the desert? Nietzsche, like his own retreat to Switzerland, has Zarathustra retire to the mountains. Henry David Thoreau escapes to Walden pond, painting a scene of a small cabin among American pines, praising self-sufficiency. In similar fashion, we may try our own hermitage to mountains or forests to escape the confused misrepresentations of society and fashion. The desert, in contrast, represents an alien reality, one that does not welcome us or praise us, a physicality that humbles the consciousness that believes reality manifests for life.

In the process of enduring the desert, we see an escape of the noise, light, and concerns of Others. Yet this escape requires there be something to escape into as well. The desert holds the appeal of an absence of signs, representation, and symbolic exchange. The comforts of the mountain or the forest still let us believe we can make a home, then construct a metaphysics that justifies our selfish human privilege. The alien forms of the desert, self-sufficient without the presence of human mechanization and machination, reveals the Observer’s alienation. The unintended consequences of society become clear in the desert of the real. The alien landscape of human lifelessness reveals the alienation of human society. Then we see that enclosure within the social machine encroaches upon individual moral systems of valuation and signification.

For this, we must strip representation down to bare life, then even forget life itself. At the extremes, the cosmos is a lush paradise, phenomenon created by the human mind and for the human mind; else it is an enormous desert, a system of objects that entraps us, an enormous machine in which matter is more real than our lives ever might be.

The inescapable social machine creates the need to distance thought from its comfortable privilege, opening the individual value system to the experiments of alien reality. The long-running contemplation of inhuman reality as a desert represents a stance on metaphysics. The weight of our decisions in the desert are the moral responsibility of bare life; every metaphysics carries extreme implications for moral systems.

Plato told us that there is a perfect and sublime realm of pure forms, triangles, circles, concepts, and virtues, all complete and wholesome in the full light of the sun. Meanwhile human existence is a sad misrepresentation of the true reality, like shadows cast on the wall of cave, create by puppets and trifles in a flickering fire. The allegory of the cave inspires a long lineage of mathematicians, astronomers, and rationalists, all trying to wake up from the dream of this world so that they may see the true world in all its sublime glory. This effort to deny the significance of bodily life makes its way to the Rationalists, like Descartes and Spinoza. The rationalists insisted that a perfect reality lay outside the material reach of humanity, except through total conceptualization and pure reason.

Aristotle takes a more encyclopedic approach (an apt description of the method by William James). Describing the attributes of human experience, cataloging the ideas found in agreement, and attempting to summarize the most probable and consistent explanation for the full sum of human belief, Aristotle established the framework for the division of our major sciences. The lineage of Aristotle, ending with the British Empiricists, insist that the material perception of humanity is the only reality upon which we can base our judgements. Anything abstract is either self-evident, as the result of a system of abstract machines like 1+1=2, or they are generalizations of experience, hypotheses that must undergo continuous experimentation for validity.

Insisting on exclusively a priori grounds, Descartes builds out a moral system based on the perfection of axiomatization, aspiring to find God-given precepts as pure as mathematics. Descartes wants an ontologically self-evident deity, with a moral code as self-contained – in the absence of any believer – as Euclidean geometry. Insisting on exclusively a posteriori grounds, Hume insists that human nature and justice must arise from probability, experiments, and patterns.

As good literary critics, we must look to the context of these arguments and read between the lines. The foundations of metaphysics and physics, its implications for ontology and epistemology, these were the formal concerns of their arguments. Between the lines, the first modern philosophers were finding that the “pagans” of Rome and Greece were not so different from Europeans and that the divine right of kings ought not trump the sovereignty of individuals. On the one side, the rationalist denial of the validity of human life and the Christian attitude toward worldly pain and desire, whatever the intended consequences, had resulted in abuses of despotism, outlandish inequality, disposability of slaves and peasants, as well as a long series of wars, killing and torturing lives in the name of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Hume’s skepticism laid out a groundwork for methodical naturalism that had terrible implications for personal beliefs about the burden of moral responsibility humanity bears. By what means do we justify enslavement, castration, starvation, domestication, or carnism – there is no grounds for any of these injustices without a social machine producing it. Empirical logic dictated that the ontological argument for a deity only gave the cosmos itself the name of God. All the injustices of human life, and many abuses against nature, originate in human prejudices, perpetuated by justifications provided by organized religion.

Hume awoke Kant from his “dogmatic slumber” and likewise startled into action all Western philosophy that followed. Hume stated, “All knowledge degenerates into probability.” Indeed, centuries of improvement in stochastic econometrics proves above all that the average human keeps economics and statistics as far away from their domesticated habits as they can. Probability of two united representations of the senses provide us with increasing certainty, but generalization of correlation into causality can only be an optimism bias imposed by the mind itself. Necessity, power, force, causal agency are thus projections of the mind superimposed on the consistent union of representations in the constant conjunction. Like heat, color, weight, sound, taste, and smell gain signification relative to the context of the Observer, Hume closes the book on generalization from certainty of probability. There is no cause and effect, nor causality and causal agency at all, only a probability we forecast and trust based on consistency of experience; “Anything may produce anything,” and by implication, any king, master, government, or religion who tells your otherwise are deluding you for the purposes of undeserved access to resources, labor, and moral hypocrisy.

Kant takes the extremes of the two approaches and attempts a “Copernican Revolution” by embracing both sides wholesale. Kant argues that the mind produces causality, not as a forecasted probability, but as a category of the mind itself. The representations of the senses, cause and effect, are all produced by the mind, as are space and time, but the mechanical determinism we see outside the mind tells us nothing about the freedom of the will “inside” the mind. The machine may look predetermined and predictable from the outside, reactive within a chain of causes and effects, but the ghost within this shell is free and moral. While causality is consistent beyond a reasonable doubt, the feeling of freedom of the will and moral valuation is likewise consistent beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, he argues, it must be the mind itself that adds everything other than freedom of will and pure reason to our representations of space, time, appearance, and causality. This lensing applies to the perception of other rational agents, and any of our interactions among intelligent beings, so their determinism and our freedom cannot contradict one another.

Based on this approach to bridging the gap between free will and determinism, Kant builds causal agency upon the synthesis of internally true freedom and externally apparent determinism. Without insisting on the rationalist freedom necessary for moral choices or insisting on the naturalist determinism necessary for moral consequences, Kant breaks the world in two. On one side of life we find the phenomena that the mind generates, but on the other side the mind builds this upon the numen of metaphysics, the thing-in-itself about which we can reach no conclusions. This separation is essential to the moral agency we take for granted anyway, because in a purely deterministic world we would have no ability to make choices, and therefore bear no burden of responsibility; while in a purely free world we would have no control over the outcome of our choices, and therefore bear no burden of responsibility. When we begin with the axiomatics of Western philosophy, it is only if we are both free to make choices and the world contains enough determinism to link our choices to consequences that we bear any moral responsibility for actions.

Kant short-circuits the arguments for either extreme by separating human reality from actual reality. This allows for the belief that each choice is its own causa prima without undermining our responsibility for the consequences in deterministic perception. However, this separation, and the postulated numen as a thing-in-itself devoid of human perceptions, built a wall between humanity and the metaphysical realm. The intended consequences of this mechanization lay in finding a logically necessary system of morals. The unintended consequences of this machination are precisely where philosophy finds its desert: a world of numen in which mind refuses to live.

While Kant placed a wall in the individual mind, separating the senses and intellect from the metaphysical reality of the thing-in-itself, Hegel takes this license into senseless material abstraction, under the premise that any narrow view of the material whole may find through its self-reflection the complete understanding of the whole.

Schopenhauer criticizes the entirety of Kant’s approach, saying that it is recycled Platonism. Ironically, it was only Kant’s popularity that drew so much attention to Hume’s methodological naturalist skepticism. Schopenhauer surveyed the full history available from multiple cultures for the first time since the fall of Rome, finding new insights in Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucius, and Taoism. In practice, Kant’s method was too convenient for the morality that submits to the prevailing ideology. If the creation of phenomena occurs in the mind of every self-conscious rational observer, and moral imperatives only apply to self-conscious intelligence, Kant’s prioritization of human valuation over the will expressed in all forms-of-life violated the principle of sufficient reason; instead, Schopenhauer argued our physical experience itself alienates us, the world of representation separates itself from the metaphysical will as a lonely expression of selfish altruism among the collective desire for consciousness.

The will was Schopenhauer’s thing-in-itself, and the will-to-live was far more coextensive than humans or civilization. In the world of will and representation, we experience thorough determinism of signs and even the choices we believe we make are representative interpretations of the movement of the one will; as generator of the forces driving all representational things. Finally, we arrive at the desert of Western philosophy. Stripping away the layers of representation, removing the system of values, both in concept and precept, and anything specific to the strategic goals of the human species, he lands upon the will by wandering into the desert, realizing the will cannot stop willing. Simply, being cannot stop becoming even throughout infinite revolutions and recurrence:

But let us suppose such a scene, stripped also of vegetation, and showing only naked rocks; then from the entire absence of that organic life which is necessary for existence, the will at once becomes uneasy, the desert assumes a terrible aspect, our mood becomes more tragic; the elevation to the sphere of pure knowing takes place with a more decided tearing of ourselves away from the interests of the will; and because we persist in continuing in the state of pure knowing, the sense of the sublime distinctly appears.

Schopenhauer, World as Will and Idea Vol. 1

The inescapable desert of pure knowing led him to immense pessimism, and he believed even the honesty of systems like Stoicism and Buddhism were insufficient for this desert. At one point he articulates this as a conversation among two friends, one wishing to be certain of the eternity of the soul, the other explaining the foolishness of wanting such assurance. In the end, the two call each other childish and part ways with no resolution; this may have been the underlying insight of all his philosophy, that all representation is childish non-sense. The will-to-live expressed in any one life was helplessly biased, and only self-conscious intelligent humanity was fully aware of the terrible burden of moral responsibility implicit in the recurrence.

Supposing anyone agrees to the groundwork of the pessimistic view reacts in the negative, treating its conclusions with any level of anger, indignation, and indolence, where might such a warrior take his passion? For this we find Friedrich Nietzsche, ready to reject the asceticism of any collective religion. He paves the way for a new method of nihilist existentialism that requires individualist positivism. While religious systems had long founded their origins on the ideas of prophets spending their time in the desert, seeking the truth-in-itself, Nietzsche rejected the notion that anyone may meaningfully appropriate these insights from another.

Going even further than Feuerbach or Schopenhauer, Nietzsche deploys his powers of literary criticism to show how the organization of religions around the insights of prophets provides us with the opposite guidance exemplified by their embrace of the desert. We ought to echo these as free spirits, creating our own system of values, not follow blindly the dogma institutionalized complacency. Within the mechanization of an ideological, dogmatic, axiomatized belief system, built in the shadow of these warrior-philosophers, we find the machination of the priests and clerics who, too weak to spend their own time in the desert, prevent all others as well.

The only answer for Nietzsche is to run into the desert, like a camel that has escaped with its burden, shrug it off, become a lion, and battle the enormous dragon “Thou Shalt” so that one may become a child, making new games and values:

“In that the NEW psychologist is about to put an end to the superstitions which have hitherto flourished with almost tropical luxuriance around the idea of the soul, he is really, as it were, thrusting himself into a new desert and a new distrust […] he finds that precisely thereby he is also condemned to INVENT—and, who knows? perhaps to DISCOVER the new.”

– Nietzsche, Beyond Good & Evil

Nietzsche sets the tone for the personal responsibility to become our own prophet in the desert, a warrior-philosopher far removed from the falsehoods of entrapment in the social machine. Albert Camus, who fought as a rebel during the Nazi occupation of France in WWII, took this moral responsibility as the essential meaning of human existence.

In the face of immense human suffering and depravity, surrounded by casualties of war and hopelessness actualized through countless suicides, Camus likewise found a desert in which we must fight for meaning and purpose. He called this desert the “absurd” – the self-consciousness speculative reality we experience, that is neither the material objects nor pure representation of mind. Representation distances us from the simple possibility that consciousness can distrust itself for some strategic reason; or that humanity repeatedly utilizes abstractions to justify murder. Therefore, we must revolt against the absurd and continuously fight for meaning.

It is here that the full history of philosophers rejecting naïve realism, with comprehensive skepticism that we may ever attain objectivity, finally reaches its absurd conclusion from the phenomenologists, that nothing is certain, “evoking after many others those waterless deserts where thought reaches its confines. After many others, yes indeed, but how eager they were to get out of them!” The desert of the real is the end of the power of thought, a limitation few philosophers were willing to accept.

This inability to find justification in knowledge of reality forces the burden of responsibility for our actions on our own shoulders. Thought will not attain certainty of material determinism or spiritual unity. We can only look to other humans for the depravity of the absurd. The mechanization of institutionalized values, which machinate unintended consequences, should not become our complacent acceptance.

“At that last crossroad where thought hesitates, many men have arrived and even some of the humblest. They then abdicated what was most precious to them, their life. Others, princes of the mind, abdicated likewise, but they initiated the suicide of their thought in its purest revolt. The real effort is to stay there […] to examine closely the odd vegetation of those distant regions. Tenacity and acumen are privileged spectators of this inhuman show in which absurdity, hope, and death carry on their dialogue. The mind can then analyze the figures of that elementary yet subtle dance before illustrating them and reliving them itself.”

– Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

When we reach this realization, that nothing human can be certain, that nothing behind or under perception justifies our life, pleasure, suffering, or death; this is where all the interesting and dramatic intricacies of systems of living representations occur.

The absurd is a desert of the mind, the distance or distortion that lies between what the material of the cosmos might be without representation in consciousness and signification by intelligence. The absurd is everything that painfully fails to make sense, such that we reject the validity of our senses, or even put an end to sensory experience. The revolt against this denial and delusion described by Camus, as well as the reality of our moral systems within the social machine, reflects the prophetic independence of Nietzsche’s warrior-philosopher.

Camus concludes that if the absurd is the quintessential defining attribute of human life, he must maintain the discipline of methodological naturalism in his authentic appraisal of the system: “I must sacrifice everything to these certainties and I must see them squarely to be able to maintain them. Above all, I must adapt my behavior to them and pursue them in all their consequences” (Ibid).

He likewise takes stock of the problem of re-valuation of all values and the cowardice to do so. While Nietzsche treats this fear with disgust, Camus treats it with empathy. The desert of the real, the fact that we and all those we love will die, that the world will forget us and everything we ever hoped or desired; to fear the reality of this supposition is only natural:

“But I want to know beforehand if thought can live in those deserts. I already know that thought has at least entered those deserts. There it found its bread. There it realized that it had previously been feeding on phantoms. It justified some of the most urgent themes of human reflection.” Ibid.

For Camus, there is no doubt of how difficult and terrifying it may be to reconsider everything once held valuable, meaningful, and true. An individual re-valuation of all values must proceed when we finally strip away the mechanization and machination that filter our reality. Our time in the desert reveals the alienation and denial that it has brought us, that we are party to the machine, and it prevents us from prioritizing with any lucidity or acumen.

Bertrand Russell summarizes the long-running battle for objectivity similarly in Some Problems of Philosophy, and the alienation it represents, saying, “If we cannot be sure of the independent existence of objects, we shall be left alone in a desert — it may be that the whole outer world is nothing but a dream, and that we alone exist.”

Unfortunately, we have a new problem today. The same mechanization of general intellect implicit in capitalism is a machination that undermines virtuosity and moral responsibility. The interlinked supercomputers in our pockets free us to access more information than ever, but too much information too fast leaves us unable to find any significance in it. This is the decisive step in the process of alienation humanity pursued with the successive objects placed between us: tools, weapons, religion, governments, enclosure, property, currency, contracts, machinery, corporations, computers, the spectacle. The “war of all against all” described by Hobbes, the social machine can finally reduce our natural state of civil war to isolated individuals, so long as they carry their own chains of self-enslavement in their pocket.

We no longer find enclosure in the social machine mechanization of labor, we enclose the machination alienation within our personal machine. The spectacle and virtualization prevent us from reaching any desert of thought and any authentic life. In Simulacra & Simulation, Jean Baudrillard calls this problem hyperreality: “Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.” When social engineering precedes our understanding of rational normative valuation, when the full globalization of economic Oedipalization leaves us with no unaltered experience, we are only able to recognize patterns that Others created ahead of time for us to recognize.

Hyperreality is the universally unauthenticated life. It represents a loss of significance by managing all mystery ahead of time. We do not experience any event authentically because the genuine physicality experience is not the anchor, a virtual experience anchors us ahead of time. If we go camping, virtualization anchors us to what camping is and who campers are through movies, commercials, and social media. To be certain, this is not a new and unexpected result of technology, it is the very essence of technology. Where we once spent time in the desert to escape the representations of the social machine, now we recognize its total inescapability.

Philosophers once inspected the distinction between the world of the mind and the world the mind perceives, some claiming everything was virtual, others claiming everything was machines. Repeatedly, some dualism became established, such that our virtualization, though developed and enclosed by machines, we could feel confident we could escape them. Today our understanding of either loses its innocence, precisely because we finally know how to engineer the patterns. It is no longer a few power-hungry men and the herd instinct of the masses that develops the unintended consequences of our morality, we can no longer claim ignorance or escape. Today we are all party to the data, the algorithms are intentional, and intelligent people fight to manage or mismanage the collateral damage.

“The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory — precession of simulacra — it is the map that engenders the territory […] It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges subsist here and there, in the deserts which are no longer those of the Empire, but our own. The desert of the real itself. – Baudrillard

Just as the chains of hyperreality prevent us from knowing the distinction between the real and the virtual, between our mechanization and our machination, the desert of the real is no longer a problem between us and material physicality, nor between us and the social machine. Now the absurd reality is within us. As we trace this lineage of the desert, we come full circle to the machines and automata from which self-consciousness attempted to distance us. The remainder of our philosophy will face the ethical and political dilemma in which we awake, to understand the moral weight of decisions, even if these we pursue in a dream within a dream, even if our awakening is only to another dream. We must establish what moral values ought to carry significance regardless of how deep in Plato’s cave we might be. Any mechanization that prevents this personal responsibility to life and existence is a machination.

Regardless of its original evolution, the intended consequence of formalization in written language was to bring humanity together. Abstraction became a powerful tool, trading on the currency of truth-values. Generalization allowed anchored, consistent existential instances to become probable patterns that we could exchange and test against reality. Once language became typography, the rules of grammar formalized and analyzed, and the lexicon of significations network into a matrix of signs, we realized the tool meant to bring us together resulted in our separation. The signs of language are simulacra, words that have definitions prior to our experience of an object. Together, full literacy creates a simulation of the world that we project upon it, distorting its significance. The signs of images in media do the same, so that instead of recognizing an object as a particularized word, we have experiences the name, the image, and the normative reactions of others in advance. Finally, we take all these simulations and place them on our own body, first in the pocket, then as wearable, with a goal to achieve further integration. Virtualization consumes us prior to any experience of reality.

Our time in the desert of the real means that we cannot look to a higher or lower plane of existence, or base our morality on the significance of rules outside ourselves. Now there are no rules outside us, only the axiomatization of our simulations, rules which we either manage or mismanage. For Schopenhauer, the desert was our capacity to resist the will and engage in pure simulation. For Nietzsche, the desert was the struggle to create new systems of significance and new patterns of understanding. For Camus, the desert was the absurd distance that alienates us from objectivity. In Baudrillard, we finally face our desert of the real, that the loss of any objectivity leaves everyone equally speculative, in a simulation we create and cannot escape. We are party to all the unintended consequences of the system and must build a better machine.


You were taught, with Pavlovian diligence, that you would live forever and the lives you destroy indirectly in this world need not weigh on your conscience. Oh how the frying of chicken convinces you that your ghettos, holocausts, child sex trafficking, and comprehensive torture, rape, and murder, are acceptable! 

Not acceptable, but only accepted. Who domesticated you this way; to die, expendable, through the pain and destruction of so many lives?

Everywhere we find record of cooked meat we find an expansive system of death. Humanity, nearly wiping out every predator, capable of such industry to recreate Eden, to live off nuts and fruits, equananimous health across all life on Earth. Instead kill everything. Kill everyone. Eat your moral hypocrisy and prey upon empty promises of forgiveness. 

You make no effort to restore or cultivate. You wait to die, pretending your rape and pillage have justification in an eternity you have no pretense to claim. 

Mechanization & Machination

Marx, Deleuze & Guattari, and more recently, Raunig go to immense lengths to elucidate the predicate logic implied by the etymology of machina. Raunig shows kindness to the English-speaking audience by likening this importance to the double signification of invention. Invention may signify: a) mechanization, that is, the solution to a problem, inefficiency, or risk, by enclosing within a complex object the knowledge that typically requires practice and virtuosity; b) machination, that is, the fiction, misleading, plotting, or scheme that convinces an audience of a “false cause” as described by Schopenhauer, a manipulation known to magicians, storytellers, filmmakers, and warfighting.

We will take each meaning within our wave-particle duality as we describe the rhizomatic paths. The strict capitalist treats invention as an object of commerce, systems of analysis are well-maintained regarding assets, depreciation, and procurement. Under arborescence, the invention represents clear intention and value, behaving particle-like in its singular existential instantiation. A more skeptical view, generalizing invention to understand its unintended consequences, shows the wave-like behavior of invention generalized as a system of objects. This wave function is complex because it must trace the path of its rhizomes. The complex function of invention represents holistic probabilities. The wave combines all its real, positive, non-imaginary instantiations, filling in gaps with probability densities. In this way, it reveals the impact on the population of opportunities over time.

Invention, as both mechanization and machination, is the foundation of human socioeconomic progress. Our analysis here will develop a reusable pattern. On the one hand, as empiricists like Hume, Locke, and William James might pursue, the arborescent collection of inventions that allow for the progressive mechanization of human labor. On the other hand, as rationalists like Descartes might pursue, and as Raunig attempts to show in social terms, the abstract machine belies power that humans experience incompletely; the sum of all inventions remains less than the total of all inventions when we include those we have not yet invented. Machination occurs in the abstraction of mechanization, both positive and negative. Mechanization treated positively in arborescence reaches one series of conclusions, while machination treated negatively in rhizomatic moral judgement reaches a different series of conclusions. The full truth-value of semiotic inventions requires a quantum superposition of each and all.

Pure arborescence cares for the strict articulation of aggregated instances exclusively. No accounting for the number and distributions of machines provides for its generalization. The semiotic leap to a generalization occurs prior to the conclusions this abstraction will claim. Mechanization is the collapse of so many truth-value particles. From simple machines like pulleys, levers, and fulcrums, to the machines of the industrial revolution, arborescence accounts for them, in the professional sense of the term, rather than criticizing in the social sense. This generalization through incomplete aggregation tends to treatment of mechanization as an implicit good. The probable semiotic universal becomes tied up with two forms of trust, one of probability and one of morality.

The concept, however, does not remain in the realm of positive particle instantiation. Generalizing suspends disbelief of the sign, bridging the moral valuation-signification along with the semiotic, both molar and molecular. If the moral value held true to the semiotic value, if the wave-particle relationship of generalization remained trustworthy, we would give little thought to the rhizomes. In this case, with Marx, we find a machination born of generalized mechanization. The intended particle consequences of each invention and the actual particle consequences of each invention produce unintended consequences in aggregation.

Simply, we come to a moment when the generalization of the promises of signs, machines, and commodities reveals itself to signify something else, something more, something wrong. Tracing the machinations of generalized mechanization has been the ongoing method of the Postmodernists. The divorce between the semiotic trust and our moral trust, such as the faith that one machine makes labor easier, smoother, and more consistent, but a thousand machines entrap us, enslave us, and turn us all into janitors rather than craftsmen – this we call alienation.

                The school of suspicion in the late 1800’s recognized that the arguments of philosophy had ignored the relationship of trust necessary for the generalization of concepts. Marx explored the alienation of the laborer to the machination of capitalist mechanization. Nietzsche explored the alienation of morality from the instincts that preserve the vitality, ingenuity, and resilience of the species. Sigmund Freud explored the alienation of psyche from its libidinal forces. Everywhere that the particle may accept its singularity of mechanization, suspicion suggests we look for a wave function – not simply to predict with increasing probability the appearance of new concretized opportunities, but to also find emergent anti-patterns in the decentralized wave. Feuerbach, who Engels cites as influential, reveals the alienation of organized religion through (as we are calling it) the backpropogation of the abstraction of deity:

“RELIGION is the relation of man to his own nature, – therein lies its truth and its power of moral amelioration; – but to his nature not recognized as his own, but regarded as another nature, separate, nay, contra-distinguished from his own: herein lies its untruth, its limitation, its contradiction to reason and morality; herein lies the noxious source of religious fanaticism, the chief metaphysical principle of human sacrifices, in a word, the prima materia of all the atrocities, all the horrible scenes, in the tragedy of religious history.”

– Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity

Through the backpropogation of the personal capacity to create particle-gods, concretized to the virtues necessary for a single Lifework, the semiotic abstraction gradually appropriates the morality of the observers into the power of the sign. Then backpropogation of the abstract, in the absence of the trust of mothers and fathers teaching their children the process of god-formation, the semiotic and moral unite to enslave the entire population. Hobbes wants us to tread lightly, as seen in Leviathan, when challenging the moral system in despotic control, fearful that entire system falls apart. Nietzsche blinks in disbelief as he applies the ideas of liberty in British political philosophy onto the recently emancipated serf of Eastern Germany. Writing in isolation in Switzerland, the ideas of utilitarianism and the childhood memories of workers in Leipzig left him nauseated, if you believe his account. The dissonance drove the passionate pro-aristocratic sentiment he expressed through praise of the “master morality” of Greek and Roman virtue ethics and the “slave morality” of institutionalized monotheistic religion in the Judeo-Islamic-Christian tradition.

For the 21st century reader, two glaring sources of ignorant thought occur throughout the skepticism of the empiricists and the virality – flipping the rhizomes up toward a new arborescent analysis – of the school of suspicion. First is the absence of developmental psychology, only later established by Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, and others. The influence Jean-Jacque Rousseau and responses from Mary Wollstonecraft drove this improved suspicion, that parental influence, socialization, and education may play a much greater role in creating inequality of abilities than any genetic inheritance. Second is the insights of Behavioral Economics, in the proof that what many Europeans attributed to hereditary predisposition emerges from climate, population density, agricultural practices, distribution of wealth, and availability of resources.

Returning to Raunig and the invention of abstract machines, we now face a question of whether we treat society as a system of signs, social machinations, or as the enslavement of machine enclosure, social mechanization. The digital age compounds the need for a superposition principle of meaning and significance. The moral, political, economic, and mechanical have networked into an inescapable matrix, more now than even Rousseau once described.

The line between mechanization and machination blurs the moment acceleration becomes virtualization. Baudrillard shows how the question of absurd morality and the authentic life as described by Camus becomes inaccessible when the system of signs becomes indistinguishable from the machines of reality. We must toil on this question, else it drives us to despair. Having established our hermeneutics and heuristic of meta-suspicion, we must endure our time in the desert.

Forests of Observation

Philosophy is an inferential act of observation that builds a system of values from experience, abstraction, and discourse. We collect and reflect on arguments regarding the nature of being and becoming (ontology) and the nature of knowledge and understanding (epistemology). Unsurprisingly, an initial analysis of will-to-power likewise particularizes expansion into an arborescent network of truth-values. Every tree of knowledge we plant and nurture takes on a life of its own, in a singular pursuit of the sun. The philosopher is never content with the shade of a single tree and thus becomes an arborist, studying and cultivating entire forests of observation. The trees of knowledge become a matrix of superimposed and entangled, grafting observations of observations and observers. Pruning these abstractions and derivations must become logocentric to bundle itself into a cohesive package. Arborescence commoditizes these conclusion-options.

The role of the philosopher is to comprehend the health of the forest, caring for its streams and soil. While W James’ The Meaning of Truth begins the journey microeconomic information, his final work, Some Problems of Philosophy, scratches the surface of the macroeconomics of ideas though it lay prior to the forest of knowledge we possess. Taking the challenge of an economics of ideas, we can apply unusual fields of enquiry back upon ontology and epistemology. The first problem is that of generalization, in which we collect differentiated singularities in a way that allows homogenous treatment. We may learn from mortgage-backed securities in this regard, along with the hazards implicit in abstraction. The second problem is that of derivation, in which we backpropagate pattern recognition into action that shapes new patterns. Again, semiotics may learn from finance and the rise of algorithmic trading. The third problem is that of systems resilience, in which contemporary computer science, chaos theory, and ecology may assist in the development of better knowledge process control. The fourth problem is that of purpose, in which evolutionary theory, corporate strategy, and principles of warfighting converge upon what genetic “wealth” humankind amasses in its labor of language and reflection.

Even with such a large forest of observation, we must stop enjoy the holistic environment developed else the labor lack meaning. We will thus surf along rhizomatic value-tendrils, following little deer paths, wandering but not lost. However, when we find a new place for knowledge, the horizontal transfer always plants a new tree. The shooting-upward in our analysis of observations, striving toward the sun against the force of gravity, will be helplessly arborescent. To the extent we are conscious of the non-observed, recalling the paths not taken and their legitimacy for other wanderers, we will attempt to highlight non-conformities against the hegemonic system we produce.

Fractal Cascade Ontology

To say that the Observer is at the crossroads between wave and particle would be only partially correct. We have no indication that there is any distinction between wave or particle without the act of observation. In other words, the Observer is not only standing at the crossroads, but also supplies the road and the intersection as well. This is a probabilistic derivative inferred from an axiomatized truth-value. We should thus ensure, however elegant a fractal might make our ontological theory, we treat it as a hypothesis with an open suspension of disbelief; we never embed it into a closed system and work on faith.

Confusion of levels occurs in pure arborescence. Over-identification with the superposition observer-in-itself, leads analytical philosophy to the observer as an abstract totality. Due to this, the Platonists and Rationalists abstracted categorical traits of observer superposition and miraculated them into the metaphysical realm. This abstraction prunes the category of the context of its subordinate probability waves – gender, race, class, religion, era, creed. By removing what is not contextual, the starting point of most dualism is inherently flawed. Whether splitting Spirit into Mind/Body, or a superfluid into wave/particle, these dualities miraculate the Observer by removing the coordinating system for the system of coordinates. The observation removes itself from the observed. Anywhere a deity becomes named as causa prima, as if engaged in Oedipalization of an intrinsically dualistic cosmos, we should suspect the text’s intentions. The Observer is right there, subjective, lensing while triangulating, overcoding while projecting, whether a single statistician or a thousand mathematicians.

Wave-Particle Semiotic Generalization

Schopenhauer showed that the problems of semiotic representation does not occur in the act of conceptual generalization or the development of rationalist systems; rather, the problems arise in taking the derivative inferences of abstraction and applying them directly to perceptual reality. Moreover, while many semiotic representations show nothing that the mastery of practice already knew, conceptual generalization is essential for communication across space-time, like the reliance of an architect on the axiomatics of math and physics when building a house.

We have progressed significantly from communication of plans to the prediction of probability densities. The advances of calculus, statistics, and quantum mechanics give renewed hope in rational us of the outcomes of abstraction applied upon our perceptual flux. Throughout this book we will attempt to overcome the problems of the law of non-contradiction through wave-particle logical dualism in semiotic systems. Although we cannot expect the isolated objects of perceptual experience can ever break the law of non-contradiction, the path to logical universalization requires conceptual generalization. We do not build generalization from one existential instantiation to a full categorical relation, but attain semiotic force through probability density.

This means that objects in being will consistently act particle-like, in fixed definiteness of identity, coherence, and space-time. To generalize our abstractions, semiotic representation requires the assumption of large numbers, opportunities of becoming, giving wave-like behavior to our conceptual understanding. This again matters exclusively for our capacity of prediction and communication, making wave-particle semiotic generalization in principle useful to us only through applicability in practice.

When we discuss pure arborescence, we mean the practice of continuous reification that humankind completes in semiotic generalization. Arborescence develops objects of existential instantiation into generalized systems under perceptual analysis. The law of non-contradiction we apply throughout to gain certainty of truth-value, as well as derivative methods of predicate logic and capitalism. This process forces the semiotic representations to behave particle-like. It is particle-like because the concept has continuous irreducibility and equilibrium-stable signification. However, this certainty is fleeting, because the conceptual validity is an emergent power-law dynamic that decays without maintenance. The particle-like representation is only relevant while it expands, accelerates, and predicts the outcomes of perceptual flux.

When we discuss rhizomatic networking, we may imagine the wandering of trails in a forest without looking at our smartphone map for a long while, content to become temporarily lost in our hope for a new discovery. This method was the essential art of Deleuze & Guattari in Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus and their philosophical lineage. A more recent example is in Gerald Raunig’s A Thousand Machines, a name in homage to its predecessor. A similar approach may be seen in this book, in which we are content to meander in the flux of uncertainty, tracing lines of thought, exploring histories of representation, and behaving wavelike in our certainties.

Our Arborescent Conscious and Rhizomatic Unconscious are two strategies of semiotic networking. They deal in the free play of the same nodes, but arborescence intends certainty, order, and consistency emerge while rhizomism desires completion of connectedness, never leaving behind a node. The switch between a centralizing network to tangling network we will call virality.

When arborescence forces itself into contradiction, it asks “What have we forgotten?” It then traces the work completed, the assumptions and generalizations, the moral character of this tree of knowledge. Then, finding a new and better soil, a new generation of tree springs up, an attempt at a better series of branches. This horizontal transfer, like a bird carrying the seeds of fruit tree far from its parent, we call virality.

When rhizomism spreads so thoroughly that patterns begin to emerge that represent either opportunity or risk, we suddenly have incentive to take these wavelike nodes and coordinate them toward some goal, through analysis, logic, and consistency. We may liken this to the landscaper who plan out an elaborate maze of surprises in the garden, taking the rhizomatic Bluegrass and standardizing its presence as part of an overarching system of meaning. This horizontal transfer of species across the palette of cultivated Earth we again call virality.

To the plants, if they were democratic humans, this gardener engages in totalitarian despotism, fascist paternalism of the most dangerous kind. Yet, as Hobbes might say, this says more about the belief system of the plants than the legitimacy of the gardener’s efforts to create beauty. Nietzsche might beg us to question, why does intention change the moral character of identical consequences? Darwin would answer that whether birds, squirrels, weather, or humans complete the work of shuffling the seeds of plants in horizontal transfer over the Earth, rotation, diversity, and new opportunities expand and accelerate the resilience of the system. The Intention of arborescence becomes fascism when it breaks the essential principle of nature, the minimum viable residence of genetic capitalism. The Desire of rhizomism becomes anarchy when its communal spirit forgets the superior force of combined will-to-power.

Rhizomatic Unconscious

Rhizomes behind our selfish, despotic, machinic, consistent, conscious analysis; we should explore what good such an idea does for us in practice. If we are hard agnostics of metaphysics, we must assess what we gain if we assume the abstract potential presence of other alien observers, applying logic and connections within. Even methodical naturalism gains creativity if we add, to our stubborn certainty of objective focus, a suspicion of what may loom outside our frame of reference.

Vitalism interprets the individual person according to the continuous irreducibility of Machinic Agency that bears a name. Each vitality plays on the stage, costumed as member of a socioeconomic ecopolitical system, masked observations of this homogenous collection of woman-particles and man-particles. From a distance, as a population, how uniform it all appears in abstraction, how easy for the simplistic to reduce billions of particularized lives into no less than two engendered masks!

Conceptual abstraction could be left to the morons and bigots, were it not for their tendency to backpropagate bad conclusions as causa prima. These power-law dynamic vectors of identification appear, under observation, to follow their causal becoming under unwavering mechanical determination. Becoming-woman, becoming-man, reproduction, death. So also the Spectacle thrives on the Circus of Values when simpletons debate their palettes of predeterminism; gender, race, orientation, class, sanity… often in that order, according to mass media.

Stochastic analysis provides pragmatic predictions in terms of probability densities, answering only where one ought to look; one is already certain the probability is possible. The opposite, to treat an emergent normal standard distribution as a caste system, has been the justification of every cruelty imagined by collections of political economy.

Appearance as particle is deceptive when we cease observation of the totality of the population or experience it from the inside – the experience that is most intimate to us! Only then do we find that free will experiences itself as a continuum of power, of many forces in dynamic relation and opposition. Causal Agency is an uncollapsed wave of indeterminate probabilities. Observation collapses these, with an accompanying sentiment of mental empowerment, as teleonomic leadership of the body or conducting the dynamics of thought, memory, emotion, and drive like an orchestra. If we rush the orchestra, the music becomes disjointed; if we stop conducting many well-practiced melodies might be played without additional effort.

Applying logic to an entire system of truth-ideas is an effort in projecting consistency and unity to our understanding. First, we must forecast many particularized hypotheses and assert their abstraction as a universal value. Next, and most fundamental to the entire history of philosophy, we force upon the systems of abstract signs a single axiomatic of all logic, the law of non-contradiction. The law of non-contradiction first espoused by Aristotle states that a proposition and negation cannot be simultaneous true. If I say, “The cat is black; the cat not-black,” the good logician immediately clarifies if I am being poetic, lack logical intelligence, or need to provide more details. For instance, “The cat seemed perfectly and consistently black from afar, but now that it is in my arms I see white and grey hairs spread about sporadically. Thus, even a black cat may be imperfectly black-haired.” In every philosophical debate, sifting through the technical and formal meanings of statement and applying the law of non-contradiction accounts for most of the leg work.

This law of non-contradiction, however, is precisely the a priori argument we must now question. The Uncertainty Principle provides a complex function that may at last span the wave-like properties of the rhizomes. This is the purpose of Quantum Liberty, to find Machinic Agency in the rhizomes. The remainder of our exploration applies quantum physics as an improved tool where we once applied the emergent power-law of non-contradiction.

Logic, capitalism, paternalism, these all thrive on forced non-contradiction. Deleuze & Guattari went to great lengths exposing that, while many philosophers and scientists take care to apply the law of non-contradiction with as little prejudice as they can manage, society has no patience for unanswered questions, doubt, minority values, or “deviant” opinions. We will thus take up a more strategic approach built upon their work exposing the rhizomes, admitting the two flaws in the system in an effort of critical leadership. First, as shown by Stiglitz and others in Behavioral Economics, that being watched, money, contracts, and cuing social role, can shift individuals toward rational self-interest, logical positivism, and objectification. Then, that the system as a whole acts upon truncated data, leaving without record any content that cannot be expressed according to currency, typography, mathematics, and the law of non-contradiction.

The exceptions to the rules, the amount of unexplained complications and complexities do begin to pile up! No wonder so many knowledge workers prefer the safety of specialization, hoping that enough trees of knowledge, branching selfishly, somehow forces the environment into a healthy ecological system. Equally true of forests and our own mind, pure arborescence as a categorical imperative leaves the health of the system unmanaged, and certain to degrade and collapse.

Our physicists look beneath the superficial flux of perception only to find a socioeconomic and ecopolitical system of molecules made of atoms. Particles seem to follow rules. Then we look deeper, subterranean as it were, and then we lose ourselves in quantum uncertainty. We ought to applaud the virility, obstinance, and confidence it took to produce the first Higgs boson after a century of elaboration. The role of the Observer throughout makes the cosmos participatory, capitalistic, though we mean two kinds of observation. This begs the question if we can logically treat the two as one. Machinic Agency would treat false the faith that human observation and material observation deserve any distinction.

Social systems throughout universal history, with effects of space-time projected onto each point, make human vitalism mere particles in the cosmic body-system, co-determinant with all possible subjective universes. We should conclude there is mind and free will, not only all the way up, but all the way down as well. That is to say, there is no difference between these perceptual machines in operative fact, only in our strategic commitment to one form over all others.

In the post-Marxist methods of Deleuze and Foucault, they should loudly to us that exceptions and deviations will expand our axiomatization; that rebellion and social progress keep us all locked in place as part of the machine. They call this subjectivation, because the subject-object relationship is given to the winners and losers as if implicitly true. We are made cogs in a machine that produces terrible unintended moral consequences. How much more, as Schopenhauer felt, the cosmos or the body! Metaphysical agnosticism leaves no escape. Each of us bear the burden of moral responsibility, although not at fault and without confidence in our wisdom.

We are in need of an uncertainty principle in philosophy. Anything we perceive as an individual, as a vitalism, a component in the system, a particle; they imply with elaborate efficiency an entire class of particularized objects, behaving on a long enough time scale to have 50/50 uncorrelated probability for any binary outcome. The stochastic philosopher may then play a game, treating all such particles as free agents that act to exchange at their level. Not only do we not know if their freedom or randomness is intrinsically different from what we feel, it also seems to make trivial difference in practice.

Another way to express the tendencies of our Rhizomatic Unconscious by contrast against statistics themselves – the pinnacle of arborescent consciousness. The “law of large numbers” that we apply to population dynamics, predicated upon a simple trait, the dichotomy manifests itself as axiomatically true. This only works when we define the population we wish to observe in advance. Observation is first a teleonomic prejudice of constraints. Science succeeds best when it is double blind and relies upon uncertainty to produce probability! To succeed, we need a memoryless queue of opportunities, and an agent that acts with uncorrelated probability at each opportunity. With enough opportunities, we find the risk of error diffuses into obsolescence. If we want to predict with confidence, we must first break assertions into tiny homogenous slices for which our incorrectness about one does not affect the outcome of the next.

The arborescent conscious builds a hegemony of the majority around which all exceptions are related, within the logic of the observer, as normalized standard deviations from the average. The law of non-contradiction is not a priori knowledge, it is strategic axiomatization.

In contrast, the rhizomatic unconscious is the cumulative deviation that grows in a series of observations within a universe of thought. While uncorrelated probability allows us to wait until enough opportunities pass, waiting for the long-run probability to minimize risk of tiny components secured within the huge system, cumulative deviation is like placing a bet on that same coin toss repeatedly – we can predict with the same certainty what the probability of the next conscious event will be, but we cannot predict how many opportunities we would need to restore our winnings or our debt to zero. This restoration is the realm of morality, the critical leadership in pursuit the cultivated universe.

The unconscious of our social systems, easily expressed in narrative form, is every opinion and method of living that privileged agents leave unrecorded and untold; liberalism pursues the shouting of uniqueness and the failure of false conformity. The impact of a personal unconscious, of the feelings, impulses, ideas, and memories left for later, uncategorized, outside our narrow focus, we will return to later.

Arborescent Consciousness

Although we can properly say little about what consciousness is, we can begin like Kant by describing its modes of operation. We may hold thought as a strategic trait, then elucidate what it gains in practice. Machinic Agency sustains the tension between feeling free and observing determinism, feeling optimistic when surrounded by entropy. Just as quantum physics relies on the assumption of uncertainty to produce probability, the assumption of freedom within a system of rules itself produces liberty. In each case, the Observer plays an active role in framing and anchoring the system of values. Wherever there is observation, the combination of intelligence and consciousness, there is arborescence.

Arborescence is the branching of representations that occurs under the generalization and abstraction of semiotic analysis. Analysis splits perceptions repeatedly, creating dichotomies even where there is no perceptible opposite. This long series of breaks when drawn begin to look tree-like. The Observer creates many trees of knowledge. Philosophers are interested in cultivating these forests.

That which appears as power-law and arborescent when we focus on a trait of a population disappears into chaos and nonsense when we are not looking. That is not to say that there is no existence when we are not the Observer, but that our mind filters, prioritizes, and obscures experience like the lens of a camera, and it narrows perception through framing as well. We overlay representation in the act of analysis, and do so with increasing selfishness and optimism unless some other tree of knowledge competes for the light of the sun.

It should not surprise us that we find fractals and branches everywhere we focus, recording causality and determination along the plane of observation; these are the operative processes of the human recording of production. Moreover, we can fully expect that consciousness will succeed in making sense of what is under observation at the expense of what is not under observation. Patterns suddenly come into focus. Melodies suddenly fall into proper rhythm, shutting out contentious noises. Analysis gives us a normal distribution, spreading, branching upward from the trunk of paternalism. It is the stubbornness of the Observer to remain at the trunk once so many branches have spread that drives the role of paternalism and centralization.

It is metaphor to say that the conscious mind is arborescent, even more to speak of an unconscious at all. These are expressions. When we apply observation, gather data, select a plane of significance, truncate outliers, cancel noise, homogenize particles and investment vehicles, we as the Observer are generating the Fractal Ontology we find, creating but also projecting logic where we have no evidence of design. Just outside the peripheral vision of the mind is everything that does not need observation for The Moment. Concentration, consistency, coherency, abstraction, derivation – these are paternalistic controls over representation. The more we develop our semiotic system, the more repressive it becomes in the service of the Observer.

This implies two basic universes of thought become possible. First, we can imagine consciousness like an astronaut recording a video, floating, spiraling in space; if we keep turning we get a 360-degree image of what surrounds us (consciousness) but understand only derivations of the role or substance of the camera itself or the person recording the images. This places the intelligent observer at the center of a personal universe of representation. Second, we can imagine walking in a circle around a fixed center until we observe the entire 360-degrees available by looking at or beyond the central axis point. In this case unconscious remains in the feeling we can never attain full confidence that behind us, beyond the limits of our peripheral vision, there may not be something we are missing. In either case, Observation is the strategic outcome of the thought-drive, operating like the drive for hunger or sex. We continuously record, focus, frame, anchor, and bias our experiences (consciousness) until the moment our thought-drive must recuse itself and ask “What have I missed? What lurks in the shadows? What if there is something just behind me? What if I am dreaming and great danger awaits my body in the real world?” We can see the immediate value to the Observer of this continuous experimentation with uncertainty, lest he get so lost in his forests of knowledge as to be eaten by a cougar or bear!

The “trunk” of these two conceptions digs into something, remaining unseen but that our observable universe of thought convinces us must exist. It is the prerequisite for sense-making, this assumption that either the world “behind” our representations has substance or spirit, or that the world “within” has equivalent constituents or a ghost. We are never content, except with enormous discipline of practice, to believe that either there is no soul in our machine; or that there might be many forces working in concert, like a well-formed orchestra no longer in need of a conductor; or that this identity itself is the great lie, that we have no soul to lose or preserve at all.

This is the Rhizomatic Unconscious in which we never fully understand our own camera or relate it perfectly to the film, and can never fully incorporate into the image all the elements not captured in each shot. In this way, we observe logic and perfection in the universe not because it is there, though it might be the case. We only know that we observe an apparent logic, but wonder if we ourselves create it. We try to overcome the uncertainty principle, a mathematical solipsism of sorts, through combined will-to-power. We say, “If several observers stand in the center together, looking outward, while even more observers stand in a circle around them, looking at them and beyond them; then we can get a perfect and complete view! Then we can be sure there is not threat or uncertainty!” This very combined effort makes the feeling of liberated will at odds with the determinism of collective observation.

This has always been the goal of our institutions, from the nomadic tribe or primitive commune to our most advanced scientific laboratories and most complete mathematical models. If we work as individuals, we can take greater risks with potentially greater rewards, but if we work collectively we can attain more complete information regarding potential risks and opportunities. We tend to oscillate between extremes, both in single lifetimes and as a species.

In the meanwhile, wherever we focus, we axiomatize. The only method we have found as a collective to help the individual with their unconscious is to shout at them from across the circle, hoping they will believe us if we describe the bear behind them with enough intensity. Unfortunately, many never turn around in time. Death has already come for them in their ignorant distraction.

Truth-Value in Pragmatic Epistenomics

“For eternally and always there is only now, one and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end.” – Erwin Schrodinger

Pragmatist Epistemology, developed initially by American psychologist and philosopher William James, explores the value of an idea based on the difference it makes in practice. Two or more people can observe the same events with wildly different facts. Large groups can produce data that bias skews in favor of an incorrect conclusion. We might discuss truth as the extent to which a cohesive network of ideas related to verifiable facts, but philosophers have invested heavily in casting doubt. Perception can become distorted. Large groups appear to have believed intricate systems of ideas to which no one would now ascribe. Philosophers in epistemology took great please in showing how often additional information forces a paradigmatic shift.

Some conclusions regarding perceptible events continues to push the curtain of physicality further into generation by our own mind. Psychological dysfunction exacerbates this issue. Therefore, William James needed to help patients question what is “real” when validity may be impossible to confirm – opinions, feelings, superstitions, and so on. Our brains skew the interpretations of data in the production process of reproductive-survival information. Much of human history across segregated populations produced incommensurable ideological systems that only gain temporary resolution through war. If truth is a form of militarization then the validity of beliefs must play some darker role than we often hope.

We can see why James, working toward an understanding of human psychology, just after the birth of our nation, would have such a concern. When we carefully listen to people who have ideas that do not agree with our own, exploring their explanations, empathizing with their biases and the pains of their past, hopes for the future, we find that the distinctions of observable reality can be intricate. In quantum terms, the more look at one particle the less likely we feel it could be participating in a rational system of laws; in economic terms, the more we observe one person’s financial decisions the less we would feel anyone is acting rationally or in accordance with long-run self-interest.

When James developed the underpinnings of functional psychology, we see a nation of immigrants participating in an industrial revolution together. They came together in that proverbial melting pot of the American Dream. The hectic life, adventure, and opportunity made it clear that in an environment of constant change, crowded together as a population, needing to get along despite opposing views, placing truth-value outside humanity was dangerous. Entrusting reality to the alien dark matter of Kant’s metaphysics places it outside the moral responsibility of humanity. Any “truth” as aspired to by Hegel, who few could claim to understand, as the knowledge spirit gains about itself through associations justifies all forms of terrible actions to the extent they inspire their own antithesis.

In his treatment of patients, it must have been painfully clear that the ancient Greek challenge of the skeptics had little relevance to daily life. From then to know, we deny that any component of a rock possesses hardness itself, we only know our own painful experience in kicking it, as one network smashing against the resistance of another network. Something remained unanswered for James, the debates of the empiricists and rationalists of Europe helped little.

James made an argument based on what we may now call a functional system. As we explore Fractal Ontology while maintaining Metaphysical Agnosticism this functional resilience will be the measure of an idea’s value. Instead of Epistemology, we do better in calling this Epistenomics, the rules by which knowledge expands.

An idea is a commodity that valorizes only in continuous exchange. It is only through exchange that an idea becomes true. Rather than extensively defining truth-in-itself, we will methodologically apply three variations of truth-in-practice. First, Truth-Value is a semiotic system representation that intelligent beings exchange in accordance with axiomatized socioeconomic rules. Second, Information Dominance is the prevailing system of cohesive ideas regarding a topic that becomes “insured” by Political Economy; in other words, the truth-in-practice that is currently winning in each population. Third, we will update the old treatment of truth-in-itself as a goal that humanity has been willing to pursue great violence to attain, Hegemonic Truth. Although Information Dominance achieves its victory because the system of ideas aims to attain Hegemonic Truth, the final answer, the causa prima of all other valid ideas, we will treat each with suspicion, and prepare ourselves for moral and philosophical wars of our own.

Because we are taking this initial proposition to an extreme logical conclusion, we will supplant what James accomplished while ascribing much to his legacy. A discerning reader will see where we are applying theories that occur only after James’ pragmatism. We will apply quantum mechanics, postmodern critics, behavioral economics, and evolutionary biology to this “free market” of truth-value ideas. As a disclaimer, what follows has little to do with what James argued (or any other author we reference). As frequently happens in philosophy, we make arguments predicated entirely on the significance of originator’s legacy, typically with little regard for their words or intentions.